Ocean City News In Brief
OCEAN CITY •€' In the brief this week, Winterfest is seeing a spike in business, while the new Americans with Disabilities Act pilot program appears to have gotten some additional funding. Additionally, it appears that the town's efforts to develop a branding campaign are continuing to evolve.
Winterfest Seeing Increase In Visitors
Recreation and Parks Department Director Tom Shuster told the Tourism Commission last week that overall numbers at the Winterfest of Lights have been impressive, citing 28,000 people have jumped aboard the Winterfest train as of last Tuesday night.
'We are exceeding the number of riders through last year, and the revenue from our merchandise and refreshments is also up, so we are very pleased so far with how it has gone in the first two weeks,' said Shuster.
Inclement weather has hurt Winterfest only a mere handful of nights, according to Shuster, 'but average numbers are still coming in quite strong,' he said.
'I was one of those 28,000 riders,' said Grants Coordinator Wayne Pryor. 'It's really similar to how they run it in Disneyworld; it's like clockwork.'
'We've worked really hard at improving efficiency and managing the crowds much better,' said Shuster. 'We want to do it in a way where it's fun for people and it doesn't seem like we are herding cattle through the lines to get on the Winterfest train.'
Aid Voucher System
Ahead For Pilot Program
The Mayor and City Council approved a proposal on Monday night that would allow for a voucher system to be used in the town's brand new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) door-to-door transit pilot program, which would provide financial aid for those riders who are experiencing financial hardship.
Simply put, those riders who are eligible to now receive the door-to-door service from their homes in Ocean City to medical facilities in Berlin, at $5 per ride (one way), will now be able to use financial aid vouchers if they need the service but are unable to pay their fare.
Ninety-year-old Bob Melvin, who had been persistent in getting the pilot program to become a reality, took the idea a step further, raising $1,100 to be used for the financial voucher system.
Public Works Director Hal Adkins told the council that he's confident that the voucher system will work quite efficiently.
'If the pilot program does continue, one would assume that there would be similar donations to that of Mr. Melvin's from various civic organizations,' said Adkins. '[Finance Administrator] Martha Lucey has informed me that the town can receive the donation, create a specific revenue account for those donations, then create vouchers and allow current ADA eligible residents to fill out a form which would grant them access to the funding.'
In its simplest form, Adkins told the council that the driver of the lone ADA van used for the pilot program would hold all the vouchers and upon the signature of those who are eligible for the vouchers, put the voucher into the fare-box for an easy and efficient filing system.
'This is really the best way that this could be done,' said Melvin, 'and I'm trying to find new ways to generate donations for this important service for our elderly and handicapped residents.'
In addition, Melvin has even gone as far as to write up a jingle of sorts, that he hopes to get advertised in hopes of getting future donations for the program, as Adkins assured the council that the voucher system would only be in place as long as their was donated funds.
Essentially, as it stands now, when the $1,100 in funding runs out, so do the vouchers.
New Branding Ideas
With reports this week that the State of Maryland cut its advertising budget once again, town officials are gearing up for next year and trying to develop new and improved ways to attract visitors to the resort.
Public Relations Director Donna Abbott, Tourism Director Deb Turk, and Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones met with MGH Advertising President Andy Malis to develop some new branding ideas for Ocean City and to create some new and attractive promotions.
'Last summer, the town added a link to its newly redesigned homepage and there were huge numbers of people clicking through the deals, like the Rodney rates for hotels,' said Jones. 'We had too many deals to keep properly organized last year, and we think it would be best to have four defined deals and really market them.'
Jones said that no specific branding campaign has come to fruition yet, but she expects one in the future, and she also sees a specific deal or promotion directed towards building up the middle of the week, which is 'historically, when the numbers need the most help filling,' said Jones.